Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are a common reason women visit me on Long Island at my OBGYN and gynecology practice. UTIs are usually caused when bacteria multiply and travel up the urethra to the bladder, resulting in an infection. Most women will have a UTI at some point in their life, and typically the condition is easily treatable and pretty harmless (other than a few unpleasant symptoms). However, if a UTI isn’t treated quickly, it can cause severe complications, such as a kidney infection.
Recognizing the symptoms of a urinary infection is one of the best ways to prevent it from becoming more serious. Here are the top 5 symptoms to watch for:
1. Burning when you pee.
Perhaps the most telltale signs of a UTI is a burning sensation when you urinate. Sometimes this burning can be internal—in the bladder—but more often the burning localizes at the urethra, where the urine comes out. You may also notice that your urine takes on a foul-smelling odor. This is your body’s way of alerting you that something is wrong.
2. Frequent or intense urge to urinate.
Feeling like you need to go to the bathroom repeatedly is another possible sign of a UTI. The issue here is not that you’re producing a lot of urine. Rather, you feel like you need to relieve yourself even with small amounts of urine in the bladder. Having to go every few minutes and finding that just a few drops come out is very suggestive of a UTI.
3. Dark, cloudy urine or blood in your urine.
The color of urine in a healthy individual can range from pale yellow to deep amber. In someone with a UTI, however, it may be pink, brown, milky, or cloudy. You may also notice blood coming out when you urinate, which is a sign that red blood cells are leaking from parts of your urinary tract. Although most patients I’ve seen with blood in the urine have had UTIs, some have had more serious conditions like stones or even cancer. Blood in the urine always requires an evaluation.
4. Pain in the lower stomach or lower back
Some people may experience pressure, cramping, or aching in the lower abdomen as part of a UTI. Pressure or pain near the pelvic bone is common, and can be very uncomfortable – especially when coupled with a frequent urge to urinate. If the pain has spread to the back or flanks (sides), then it’s possible that the infection is spreading upwards from the bladder to the kidneys.
5. Fever and chills.
If your UTI gets to the point where you have flu-like symptoms – such as a fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting – you need to see a doctor right away. These more serious symptoms are signs that your UTI has progressed into a kidney infection. If left untreated, the infection can damage your kidneys permanently. Additionally, because the kidneys filter waste from the blood, you’re at risk for the infection spreading through the bloodstream to other organs.
Symptoms are not always what they seem. Commonly, women who think they have a UTI actually have a vaginal infection like yeast or bacterial vaginosis; other urinary conditions like kidney stones can also mimic UTI symptoms. The best way to ensure an accurate diagnosis is to be evaluated in the office and have your urine tested. A quick “dipstick” test in the office is fairly accurate, and its results can be confirmed by sending the urine out for laboratory analysis.
UTI Diagnosis and Treatment
UTIs are diagnosed with a urine test that checks for specific markers in the urine that indicate infection. Once a urinary tract infection is confirmed, the UTI can be treated quickly with oral antibiotics. Symptoms usually resolve quickly – typically within the first 24 to 48 hours. Even if your symptoms resolve, however, it’s important to use the full course of antibiotics prescribed to ensure that the infection is fully treated.
There is some evidence that cranberry juice helps to prevent UTIs in susceptible women, but it’s risky to rely on cranberry juice alone if you already have symptoms. Proper medical care is still the gold standard of treatment.
If you think you may be suffering from a bladder infection, contact us today. Our Long Island gynecologists and OBGYNs are some of the top gynecologists in Nassau County, and they can help you get prompt treatment and relief.